Sunday, June 23, 2013

Natasha's Dance by Orlando Figes

Vladimirka ( 1892 ) by Isaak Levitan

In “Natasha’s dance”, Orlanda Figes paints a large colorful canvas of Russian cultural history, encompassing literature, theatre, painting, music, ballet, architecture, and even film from the ancient times  before Peter the Great up to Stravinsky’s return to his Motherland 50 years ago.

Cleverly mixing the broad strokes of the major cultural trends with the anecdotical, Figes delivers a book that is both academmically serious and highly entertaining.”Natasha’s dance” is a book I couldn’t put down, and now that I have finished,  consider a rereading, to make sure I didn't’t miss anything .

Figes book feels complete. The political, religious and social backgrounds are explained, the cultural reactions and counter reactions discussed, the individual artists, mecenas and others presented.

And what an exciting subject indeed ! From the great writers like Pushkin,Gogol and Dostoievski, we follow the painters such as Kramskoi, Levitan and Repin, we are introduced to Sergej Diaghilev’s ballet Russes,  his dancers and conductors, his choreographers and composers . We follow the careers of genial filmmakers like Einsenstein, brillant poets like Akhmatova and writers like Anton Babel, Artists who are bullied, tortured and even killed during the Stalinist times !

For what is the most impressive of all, is how all these great Artists have been able to do their thing, to create their masterpieces in a Russia of Tsars, Church, revolutionaries and blood – thirsty Dictators.

The creation of Beauty is truly our last stand against Barbarism…

This picture depicts the road on which Russia's convicts travelled to their penal exile in Siberia.